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Hamilton critical of F1 restart procedure

Mat Coch

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Tuesday 15th September, 2020 - 8:24am

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Bottas leads the field behind the Safety Car at Mugello

Lewis Hamilton has criticised the way in which the Safety Car was handled during the Formula 1 Tuscan Grand Prix.

Of particular note was the restart following its opening lap introduction, where a start-line incident accounted for four cars and triggered a red flag.

Hamilton was critical of the way the Safety Car was withdrawn, suggesting the lights were switched off late in an effort to spice up the racing.

“It was absolutely not Valtteri’s fault, it’s the decision makers that are trying to make it more exciting,” Hamilton said of the resulting crash.

“It put people at risk, perhaps they need to rethink that.

“They have been moving switching off the safety car lights later and later and later. We are fighting for position.

“They are trying to make it more exciting but (Sunday) was a little bit over the limit but Valtteri (Bottas) did exactly what anybody would do.”

The long front straight, coupled with a headwind, meant race leader Bottas held the field at low speed as he approached the control line.

Further back, others had created space into which they could accelerate and gain an advantage, and it was that concertina which ultimately triggered the pile up.

“From an FIA perspective, safety is paramount full stop. End of story,” refuted Masi.

“In my capacity as race director and safety delegate that’s point blank where my role is; as sporting integrity and safety.

“Anyone who says otherwise is quite offensive personally.

“They can criticise all they want,” he added.

“If we have a look at a distance perspective from where the lights were extinguished to the control line, it’s probably not dissimilar, if not longer, than a number of other venues.

“The Safety Car lights go out where they do, the Safety Car goes into the pit lane.

“We have the twenty best drivers in the world, and as we saw earlier in the Formula 3 race those drivers in the junior category had a very, very similar restart to what was occurring in the F1 race and navigated it quite well, without incident.

The Australian highlighted the fact that drivers were reminded of the procedures prior to Sunday’s race, with the specifics of Mugello’s control line covered off.

“The drivers were all advised very clearly at the drivers’ meeting on Friday night,” he reasoned.

“There were two key parts to remind them.

“One was to ensure that they don’t overtake the safety car before the safety car line at pit entry.

“The second part was, which is unusual for this circuit, is that the control line where they can overtake is located close to the pit lane exit.

“So it’s not a surprise, and we’ve seen similar matters in Baku, with such a long run, let’s call it, to the control line where the leader who has every right to dictate the pace has kept it quite slow to try and avoid a slipstream from the cars behind.”

Hamilton also voiced concerns about the use of the red flag, which has been shown three times in the last two grands prix.

In Monza, the race was stopped when Charles Leclerc crashed at the Parabolic.

Last weekend it was shown twice; once for the four car restart crash and again when Lance Stroll crashed heavily at Arrabbiata 2 late in the race.

Rules in Formula 1 dictate that, should a race be suspended, that it is to resume with a standing start.

“It seems if there is a piece of paper on the track they are going to put the red flag out and do a re-start and I can understand why and that it’s exciting,” Hamilton opined.

“Ultimately these races can get boring when everyone strings out and there are such big gaps between everyone.

“They do it in NASCAR. They put out the yellow flag all the time and safety cars, whatever, all the time to keep the race exciting.

“But they need to take into account the safety aspect.

“(Sunday) was not particularly safe with the restart, you could almost see that coming.

“I am sure they will learn from it and we’ll move together as a sport.”

According to Bottas, Mercedes raised the potential for restart dramas with the FIA ahead of the race.

“They said basically they are going to keep doing it because it is better for the show,” he said.

“We are allowed to race from the control line, which has been there for a while.

“The difference this year is they are putting the safety car lights off quite late so you can only build the gap pretty late on.

“So, in the lead, you try to maximise your chances and I’m not at all to blame for that.

“I was doing consistent speed until I went. Yes, I went late, but we start racing from the control line, not before that.

“So the guys behind who crashed because of that, they can look in the mirror. There is no point whining about it.”

Following Sunday’s race, 12 drivers were warned for their actions at the Safety Car restart which stewards deemed was a result of “the inconsistent application of throttle and brake, from the final corner along the pit straight.”

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